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Thunderstruck: Civil War reenactment

Placerita Junior High School hosts its regular Civil War reenactment

Posted: May 1, 2009 10:26 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Retiring Placerita Junior High teacher John Warling wears the Civil War uniform of a Confederate soldier Friday during a Civil War reenactment at Placerita Junior high School.

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The Civil War came to Newhall Friday as a group of about 30 students crowded around a cannon on the grassy field at Placerita Junior High School.

With nervous smiles on their faces, students plugged their ears as a small group of Civil War reenactors prepared to fire the black cannon.

To the order, "Fire," the cannon went off with a roar, with some students looking startled and other whispering "That's awesome!" to their classmates.

"It was an explosive way to start the day," said eighth-grade student Dustin Soto, 14.

It was Civil War Day at the junior high school in Newhall and about 500 eighth-grade students learned about the daily life of soldiers and civilians from 20 Civil War reenactors, including eighth-grade history teacher John Warling, who organizes the annual tradition.

Civil War Day has evolved to become a centerpiece attraction for Placerita Junior High School since 1994, Principal Mike Kuhlman said.

"John has really been responsible for bringing this subject to life," he said Friday.

Civil War Day started more than a decade ago with one Civil War reenactor who visited Placerita students.

Roped into becoming a Civil War reenactor, Warling expanded the day, with more reenactors joining the program.

Warling considers Civil War Day a chance for students to experience history, and to see war close-up.

"We want the kids to know how horrific war is," Warling said.

At the same time, it's a way for students to gain an appreciation for their American heritage, he said.

Up to 15 former Placerita students have gone on to become Civil War reenactors, Warling said.

But Warling, 59, is retiring from teaching this year, which could bring the annual Civil War Day tradition to an end.

Warling, who spent 24 years as a science teacher before switching to history in 1994, is ready to travel, he said.

"I want to go out and see the rest of our country," he said.

But Warling's teaching style is going to be hard to replace.

"We're going to be losing a lot with John's retirement," Kuhlman said.

On Friday, eighth-graders learned about topics like infantry, Civil War weapons and the lives of Civil War women. The reenactment seemed to have a special impact.

"You get to see things in person," said eighth-grade student Brendan Kuhlman, 14.

Georgia Harris watched a cannon being shot off for the first time.

"It kind of surprised me how loud it was," she said.

Georgia spent part of her morning learning about how women lived during Civil War days.

Dustin, Brendan and Georgia look forward to Warling's history class because of his insight and knowledge about the Civil War.

"He's not just reading from a textbook," Dustin said.

Students say that Warling's teaching style has left a lasting impression on them.

"He's the best history teacher I've ever had," Dustin said.

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